GREECE & SPAIN: Reform of cotton industry may lead to environmental restrictions

The European Commission has proposed changes to its cotton subsidy programme, including the requiring EU member states to report on the environmental impact of cotton growing in their countries.

The EC also proposes that member states draw up environmental criteria that will help determine environmental standards for the cotton industry. This, the EC admits, could include restricting eligibility for cotton subsidies to areas that meet environmental criteria.

Conventional cotton growing methods have been widely criticised by environmentalists and those concerned about the world’s water resources. Cotton crops account for approximately one quarter of all pesticide use worldwide and require large amounts of water for irrigation.

Franz Fischler, commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries announced the EC’s proposal, saying that: “The reform will increase budgetary discipline and raise the level of environmental protection.

Greece and Spain are the EU’s only two cotton-producing countries. The EC hopes its reform will ” take better account of environmental damage caused by high water consumption, the use of pesticides and fertilisers and the trend towards a one-crop economy in certain areas”.

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